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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS GENERAL DEBATE ON THE FOLLOW-UP TO AND IMPLEMENTATION OF THE VIENNA DECLARATION AND PROGRAMME OF ACTION

20 March 2018

The Human Rights Council in its midday meeting held a general debate on the follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

During the debate, speakers identified the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action as vital to helping maintain democratic order.  Upholding the rule of law and justice were essential to promoting and protecting human rights.  Speakers stressed that all human rights were universal, interdependent and interrelated, and that all human rights should be given equal importance.  A number of speakers noted that freedom from poverty was a human right and that combatting poverty was central to upholding all other human rights.  Some speakers voiced concern about the selective use of human rights for narrow political goals, noting that no country should question the choice of a political system in another country.  Speakers stressed that only through constructive dialogue could human rights issues be properly addressed.  Effective implementation of the Vienna Declaration required the involvement of civil society, including at the United Nations.  However, accreditation by the Economic and Social Council was in the hands of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, which was dominated by countries with poor human rights records.  Some speakers called on States with positive human rights records to stand as candidates.

Speaking in the general debate were Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Bulgaria on behalf of the European Union, Jordan on behalf of the Arab Group, Pakistan, Tunisia, United States, Venezuela, Iraq, Kenya, Nepal, Togo on behalf of the African Group, China, Israel, Sierra Leone, Russian Federation, Estonia, Greece, Jordan, Mozambique, International Development Law Organization, India, Syria and Libya.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Conectas Direitos Humanos, (in a joint statement with Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) Asociación Civil and International Federation for Human Rights Leagues Amuta for NGO Responsibility), Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Iraqi Development Organization, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Alsalam Foundation, European Union of Public Relations, Canners International Permanent Committee, Advocates for Human Rights, African Regional Agricultural Credit Association, World Barua Organization, Centre for Environmental and Management Studies, International Association for Democracy in Africa, United Schools International, International Buddhist Relief Organization, Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, World Environment and Resources Council, Pan African Union for Science and Technology, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, World Muslim Congress, Conseil International de Soutien à des Procès Equitables et aux Droits de l'Homme, Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea, Organisation internationale pour les pays de moins avancés, Association of World Citizens, Guinea Medical Mutual Association, Liberation, Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters, Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et la Promotion de la Coopération Economique Internationale (OCAPROCE), Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, Centre for Organisation Research and Education, VAAGDHARA , Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Recontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Association pour l’integration et le Development Durable au Burundi, Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul, ABC Tamil Oli, Alliance Creative Community Project, Prahar, International Solidarity for Africa, Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”, IUS PRIMI VIRI International Association, Tourner la page, Association Thendral, Tamil World, Le Pont, Association for the Victims of the world, Observatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l’Homme et de la Démocratie, Action of Human Movement, International Humanist and Ethical Union, United Nations Watch, International-lawyers.org, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Agence Internationale pour le Developpement, International Service for Human Rights, Meezaan Center for Human Rights, New human rigths cameroon, Stichting International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service, Presse Embleme Campagne, Réseau international des droits humains1, and Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik.  

Speaking in a right of reply were Cuba, India, Spain, China and Brazil.


The Council will next hear the presentation of reports by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and by the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Durban Declaration, and will then hold a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance.


General Debate on the Follow-up to and Implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, reminded that Islam prohibited any form of exploitation of human beings.  Some people still had not freed themselves from colonialization, such as the people of Kashmir and Palestine.  All human rights were universal, interdependent and interrelated, and all human rights should be given equal importance.  The right to development was an inalienable human right. 

Bulgaria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, attached great importance to the principles underpinning human rights, namely universality, interdependence and interrelatedness.  Human rights had to be read globally, on the same footing and with the same emphasis.  The European Union fully endorsed the emphasis of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action on the role of civil society in reminding Governments of their human rights obligations.

Jordan, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, noted that the universal and indivisible nature of human rights should be reinforced, and stressed that transparency and non-politicization should underpin the work of the Human Rights Council.  All sorts of downplaying of Arab efforts was an attempt to weaken human rights.  The Arab Group reminded of the suffering of the Palestinian people, and of their denied right to self-determination.

Pakistan emphasized that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights inspired States to ensure human dignity in the context of their unique social and cultural circumstances.  It should not be forgotten that freedom from poverty was also a human right.  Effective realization of human rights was not possible without working together in a non-politicized manner.    

Tunisia said that on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the international community should assess the dynamic nature of the Declaration.  Tunisia asked how the Declaration could be made more vital to the enjoyment of human rights.  Despite progress in the field of human rights, there were shortcomings that prevented the implementation of the Declaration’s principles.

United States reminded that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action called for democracy, justice, and the rule of law to be key principles in promoting and protecting human rights.  The United States commended countries that had recently undergone peaceful electoral processes, but it voiced concern about the electoral practices in Russia, the recent presidential reforms in China, and the decision to hold snap elections in Venezuela. 

Venezuela stressed the importance of upholding non-selectivity in human rights matters.  However, human rights issues had recently been used by some powers to impose their vision on countries of the Global South.  Such actions disrupted the provision of medicine and food, and flagrantly violated human rights law.  Venezuela noted that combatting poverty was essential to ensuring human rights, adding that progress could be made only through genuine dialogue.

Iraq considered the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action as a positive force for the promotion and protection of human rights.  The Declaration was pivotal to sustaining democratic systems.  Iraq was fostering relationships with non-governmental organizations in order to foster a society that respected human rights, and it attached special importance to the rights of children and the protection of ethnic and religious minorities.

Kenya said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action were important because of their universality and aim to promote respect of all human rights for all, without any prejudice.  Kenya stressed that the Sustainable Development Goals and all rights had to be implemented while respecting the territorial integrity of all States.  Promoting rights in a selective and politicized manner was counterproductive.

Nepal emphasized that the world should realize the universal right to development, adding that the right to development had to be mainstreamed on an equal footing with civil and political rights.  A formidable challenge remained for the enjoyment of human rights by many people across the world.  The pledge of leaving no one behind bore significance in the international community’s actions. 

Togo reminded that eight million people still had nothing eat, while thousands of children died from preventable diseases.  Hunger was the main cause of mortality in the world, killing more people than HIV/AIDS, tuberculous and malaria altogether.  Migration was considered a threat, despite the right of freedom of movement.  What had become of the promise of dignity regardless of the origin of human beings?

China called attention to a severe violation of the United Nations Charter through serious interference in the domestic affairs of China.  China’s political system and the road of development were the choice of its people alone.  China called on the United States not to interfere in its political affairs, and those of others, and to stop using human rights to attack political systems chosen by other peoples.

Israel reminded of continued discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, and of persons with disabilities.  States should constantly remember the barriers that these groups faced when adopting policies.  While regional and cultural particularities should be taken into account in the promotion and protection of human rights, it was the duty of States to promote fundamental freedoms, especially when it came to the rights of women and girls.

Sierra Leone noted that while each State proclaimed the virtues entrenched in human rights instruments, and its commitment to them, it was clear that human rights abuses were still prevalent in countries across the world.  The preventive role of the respect for human rights to avoid conflicts and instability was self-evident, and yet so many conflicts and wars were proliferating.  Where had the international community gone wrong?

Russian Federation regretted that many countries had tried to distort the basic principles of human rights and bend them to their political goals.  The Russian Federation reminded of what politicization had done to the Human Rights Commission, noting that signs of that were visible in the Human Rights Council too.  It called on the United States, the United Kingdom and Ukraine to come to their senses and stop undermining their already weak reputation in the Council.

Estonia stated that an actual impact on the ground could only come from the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Too many people suffered from the lack of respect for their rights, while education was the privilege of a few.  The human rights work of the United Nations was not well funded.  Estonia therefore called on all States to make greater financial contributions for the promotion of human rights.

Greece said that States must work towards improving their human rights situation and ensure that persons within their borders did not suffer from discrimination.  States also had to work towards inclusion.  To that end, Greece was improving interaction with civil society organizations and protecting human rights defenders. 

Jordan stressed that the international community had to work in the spirit of cooperation to achieve goals set out in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  Jordan had adopted a national human rights plan designed under the instruction of the King.  The plan contained strategies to improve all human rights. 

Mozambique reminded that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action reaffirmed the right of all people to self-determination.  It was time for the international community to step up efforts to meet the needs of the people of Western Sahara to achieve their right to self-determination.  Mozambique called for the mainstreaming of human rights concepts in United Nations peacekeeping operations.

International Development Law Organization echoed the notion that the relevance of the rule of law was present in the principles outlined in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  The rule of law was an essential driver of peace and human rights.  Ultimately, the rule of law was about achieving fair outcomes.

India stressed that human rights could not be implemented without development.  It was imperative to recognize the right to development as a distinct and inalienable human right.  The primacy of national efforts on human rights, along with specific challenges of individual countries, had to guide the efforts of the international community.  It was time to review the human rights instruments and make them more representative.

Syria said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action stressed the right to development as a universal right.  It also upheld the right to self-determination of vulnerable groups, including those in extraterritorial jurisdictions.  Syria called upon States not to take unilateral measures which were incompatible with human rights and the United Nations principles.  It also called on the international community to condemn terrorism and to put human rights above politicization.

Libya stated that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action allowed States to use it for the implementation of basic human rights.  It encouraged constructive cooperation between States in order to reinforce human rights and to include them in relevant national policies and mechanisms.  Libya expressed hope that its National Council for Human Rights would receive the necessary funds to reinforce the path of national reconciliation. 

Conectas Direitos Humanos, in a joint statement with Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) Asociación Civil and International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, reminded that during the current session, the Human Rights Council would consider a resolution that requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on the application of human rights indicators to strengthen existing data collection and analysis tools in drug statistics.  Conectas called on States to support the resolution.

Amuta for NGO Responsibility underlined that the well-being of children was a cornerstone of upholding human rights.  UNICEF activities in Palestine were putting children at risk of being recruited by militants as child soldiers.  UNICEF was also displaying bias in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian situation.  Accordingly, the organization urged it to end all such activities.

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc voiced deep concern about the systematic violations of the right to protection against torture stipulated by the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  In Bahrain, the Government had put an end to a moratorium on the death penalty when it had executed three victims of torture.

Iraqi Development Organization reminded the Human Rights Council that the Saudi-led coalition was causing human rights abuses in Yemen.  Millions of people had taken to the streets to protest against the illegal war.  The organization called for an end to air raids and reminded of the right of Yemenis to self-determination.

Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture warned that the Gulf region had become a dangerous place for human rights defenders.  Fabricated information and torture were being used as tools to undermine the work of defenders.  The detention of human rights defenders in Bahrain was a clear example of such practices.  In the United Arab Emirates, human rights defenders had disappeared.

Alsalam Foundation raised its concerns about States’ violations of the Vienna Declaration, namely reprisals against journalists and human rights defenders.  In 2017, the Government of Bahrain had closed down a newspaper whose journalists had been tortured to death by police officers.  In another incident, police had fired tear gas at protesters, and had shot dead one of the protesters. 

European Union of Public Relations noted that Pakistan was one of the most dangerous countries for women who were denied their fundamental rights.  Women constantly complained of mistreatment and isolation from society.  Violence against women, including rape, domestic violence, honour killings, and forced marriage, remained practiced in Pakistan.

Canners International Permanent Committee said that the Vienna Declaration marked the culmination of a long process of review of the status of human rights worldwide, and that it sought to strengthen human rights instruments.  Nevertheless, there was a growing concern about pushback against civil society organizations and human rights defenders.  Conflicts around the world were targeting the defenders of minorities. 

Advocates for Human Rights drew attention to criminal laws that violated the rights of women.  Some countries, such as Croatia, Mongolia, Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan and Morocco had undergone developments to promote justice and access to safety for women.  However, in Russia and Hungary criminal laws created barriers to women’s access to justice.  The organization called on States to ensure that domestic violence was criminalized as a crime commensurate to other crimes. 

African Regional Agricultural Credit Association highlighted the numerous human rights violations faced by women in Pakistan.  The most blatant of such abuses was the practice of honour killings.  Pakistan’s judicial system was riddled with disparities and no appropriate mechanisms existed to ensure the protection of women.  As a result, rapes were going unreported.

World Barua Organization reminded that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action had affirmed the interrelation of all human rights.  Still, in India, violence against minorities and marginalized groups persisted.  Violence against women from such groups was multifaceted.  The organization urged the Human Rights Council to pressure India to put an end to its caste system.

Centre for Environmental and Management Studies stated that promoting respect for the rights of the child was its greatest priority, adding that States had to introduce plans to reduce infant mortality rates and ensure that all children lived in safety.  No child should be left without help in a difficult situation. 

International Association for Democracy in Africa reminded that the right to gender equality remained a luxury in Pakistan.  The Government was ignoring calls to address violence against women, whereas honour killings remained prevalent.  Regressive laws were making it difficult to uphold the rights of women.

United Schools International noted that it was highly important to remove barriers, including financial, economic, psychological and cultural, to the enjoyment of the rights of persons with disabilities.  The organization highly appreciated countries that had introduced a number of laws on the rights of persons with disabilities, to ensure that they benefited from the national economic successes.  

International Buddhist Relief Organization reminded that it was a crime to recruit innocent people, destruct their lives, and intentionally kill others.  The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had committed crimes against humanity when it had ordered Tamils to commit suicide.  Accountability had to start by stopping the kidnapping of men, women and children, then drugging them and turning them into killers. 

Commission to Study the Organization of Peace stated that women and girls all over the world were physically abused, forced to bear children, and forced into sexual activities – often by those closest to them.  The human rights of all girls and children were an integral part of human rights.  The eradication of all forms of discrimination was an imperative for the international community. 

World Environment and Resources Council drew attention to women who faced violence due to weak legal frameworks in many countries.  Women had to tolerate unbearable circumstances: they were invisible, undernourished and played a subservient and subordinate role.  In Pakistan, religious beliefs were deeply rooted in the society: men were the lords of women and they controlled their destiny.  That superiority of men over women was prevalent in many countries.  

Pan African Union for Science and Technology noted that considerable progress had been made concerning the implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  Still, since every State still had its own choice to adhere to human rights standards, States were urged to demonstrate their leadership in promoting and protecting human rights in a safe environment.

Organization for Defending Victims of Violence said that Shia in Saudi Arabia were constantly treated as second class citizens and could not hold religious services in public places.  Attempts to forcefully convert the Shia to Sunni was another case of blatant violation of the freedom of religion as stated in international documents.

World Muslim Congress noted that in line with provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, even during states of emergency certain human rights could not be derogated.  Despite calls of the international community, India had adopted the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which had given impunity to security forces.  The use of excessive force had resulted in killing, blinding and injuring thousands in Jammu and Kashmir last year.

Conseil International de Soutien à des Procès Equitables et aux Droits de l'Homme said that Saudi Arabia had espoused the extreme Wahabi doctrine which had been included in the school curriculum.  Saudi Arabia was involved in many conflicts and was supporting terrorists.  Bahrain and Kuwait had taken a similar path.  These countries still enjoyed the support of United States and United Kingdom, in spite of disregarding the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

Solidarity Switzerland-Guinea said the international community must work to prevent and combat terrorism as outlined in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  The United Nations had failed to act accordingly with regard to Sri Lanka.  United Nations resolutions on Sri Lanka were misguided.  

Organisation internationale pour les pays les moins avancés (OIPMA) said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action were a benchmark for the international community.  The Declaration stressed that less developed countries must be supported by the international community.  The organization called for follow-up assessments of the implementation of the Declaration in less developed countries.

Association of World Citizens said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action emphasized the rights of women and children.  Women in Iran were being arrested and treated brutally for expressing dissatisfaction with Government policies.  Iranian women underwent daily humiliation and Government supporters were leading attacks against them.

Guinea Medical Mutual Association said the promotion and protection of human rights was a priority for the international community.  The international community could not turn its back on the people of Sri Lanka.  However, the Human Rights Council must not pursue efforts in Sri Lanka simply to satisfy a diaspora.

Liberation said women in certain castes in India were beaten to death.  In one instance, a man had had his wife beaten to death, because, as he said, in his caste, it was against a man’s pride to have his wife work.  His wife, meanwhile, had been working in order to pay for the education of her children.  Liberation called upon India to learn from countries like Switzerland to sensitize its population about the rights of women.

Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters said violations of the rights of women in situations of conflict was in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law.  Like other conflicts, women in Kashmir were suffering and had become victims of the Indian occupation forces.  Eleven per cent of the Kashmiri women had suffered sexual violence at the hands of Indian men in uniform. 

Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee said all human rights and fundamental freedoms had to be exercised by all those countries which were party to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  But India had forgotten its duties towards its minorities and in particular, the Sikh minority.  Several Sikh pilgrims had not been able to enter the country last year.  Sikhs were left with no choice.  It was time for the United Nations to get involved in this problem.

L’Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et la Promotion de la Coopération Economique Internationale (OCAPROCE) said it was imperative to eradicate all forms of violence and discrimination against women.  Thousands of women continued to suffer from multifaceted discrimination, including deprivation of liberty, marginalization, violence, and lack of equal opportunities.  The organization called for the protection of the rights of women living in Tindouf camps who were suffering at the hands of Polisario leaders. 

Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association said that north east India was one of the largest markets for human trafficking due to its geographical location and the prevailing conflict in the area.  Young girls and women had been also trapped in forced marriages, bonded labour market, as well as sweat shops, agriculture plantations, and domestic work.  The number of cases was much higher than registered.

Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development said that on the African continent, the human rights situation had been improving and conventions and convention protocol served as reference for legislation for many countries.  Sudan had played an important role in the promotion of the Sustainable Development Goals, including the promotion of gender equality policy and eliminating discrimination against women.

Centre for Organization Research and Education said that female human rights defenders engaging in conflict prevention in India were particularly vulnerable.  Manipuri women encountered an array of risks from State and non-State actors.   Women were perceived to be working against national security interests and were increasingly monitored by the Government.

VAAGDHARA stressed that in north east India, women had been experiencing exploitation along ethnic lines as well as a result of the armed conflict imposed by the State.  The patriarchal violence was aggravated due to the conflict situation so women lived in fear and trauma.  International legal provisions protecting against gender based violence were hardly accessible due to the lack of domestic policies.

Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights (APWCR) said that many States, especially those occupying others, were violating human rights.  Women in Indian-occupied Kashmir were being degraded and used as political weapons.  Organized attacks were being carried out against human rights defenders and freedom of assembly was non-existent.

International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD) remained concerned over inequalities within and among States.  Implementation of projects to address inequalities faced many obstacles.  Loans by financial institutions must be informed by human rights and regional trade agreements must not be counterproductive for less developed countries.

Recontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action set a new global vision of the responsibility to develop.  It was important to recognize gaps in the intentions of the Declaration and its implementation.  Polarization meant that human rights were being abused for political gain.   

International Fellowship of Reconciliation said the people of Western Sahara were still suffering under Moroccan occupation.  The conflict had a simple solution, to uphold the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.  Morocco was changing the demography of the region in violation of international law.

Association pour l’integration et le Develiopment Durable au Burundi said India proclaimed it was a multi-ethnic society but some peoples were marginalised from the mainstream due to their skin colour and facial features, which constantly made them objects of ridicule.  In spite of legislation against discrimination, these peoples were continuously discriminated against and their culture and community were considered inferior.

Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-Tamoul expressed dismay at the systematic violation of the full enjoyment of the human rights of Tamils.  Given the deep levels of discrimination towards the Tamil communities by the Government of Sri Lanka, and the Government’s rejection of meaningful and sustainable peace, it urged the Council to grant the absolute right to self-determination to the Tamil people of the north east.

ABC Tamil Oli said in Sri Lanka the Tamil community suffered greatly.  More than 40,000 Tamils had been orphaned, and Tamils lived in a military complex whereby for every six Tamils there was an armed solider.  The draconian terrorism prevention act still existed.  It was imperative for the Human Rights Council to refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court, or establish a tribunal.

Alliance Creative Community Project said armed conflicts taking place all around the world were violating the national aspirations of peoples.  There was no place for this in the world.  The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action had recognized the right of nations to self-determination. 

Prahar was deeply concerned about the continuing reports of discrimination, threats and violence which were faced by civil society worldwide.  In India, Dalits, minorities, tribal people and women faced violence in daily life.  Human rights defenders from Dalit communities faced threats from the current government. 

International Solidarity for Africa stated that various proactive actions through proper channels needed to be carried out, including referendums which would uphold the right to self-determination.  Referendums had to be held in advance in various parts of the world, and internationally recognized, not during the conflict.  Holding a referendum by Tamils in Sri Lanka was the only proper way to resolve the matter.

Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru” appreciated the progress made by the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, as they had brought forward the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  However, the right to free speech was constantly under threat, particularly noting the work of Wikileaks and Julian Assange who was a victim of Washington, with support of other western powers.

IUS PRIMI VIRI International Association, in a joint statement, said that initiatives and legal measures had been recently adopted, such as the declaration by Egypt pronouncing 2018 as the year for persons with disabilities, and the passage of the new act on persons with disabilities in India.  However, persons with disabilities continued to be disproportionally affected by conflict in Iraq.

Tourner la page reminded that several United Nations treaties and conventions stated that all people had the right to self-determination.  Spain had clearly violated that right when it used disproportionate force against Catalan voters when they tried to exercise their right to self-determination.  Spain’s violent reaction and misuse of pretrial detention also undermined the right to peaceful protest and assembly.

Association Thendral drew attention to the Singhalese domination in the north and east of Sri Lanka.  The northern theatre of civil war was becoming a popular destination for Singhalese tourists who visited memorials built to extoll the heroic acts of the Singhalese army.  There were no memorials for the Tamils.  The Singhalese built Buddhist temples in areas where there was limited Buddhist presence.

Tamil World highlighted the denial of the right to self-determination of the people of the north and east of Sri Lanka.  There had been a lack of investigation into the enforced disappearances and the structural genocide carried out since the independence of Sri Lanka.  Successive Governments had failed to provide guarantees of non-repetition. 

Le Pont drew attention to Sri Lanka’s lack of accountability in addressing past crimes.  Although the Government of Sri Lanka had assured that it would take steps toward meaningful reconciliation, the implementation of relevant recommendations remained at the level of superficial engagement with United Nations treaty bodies.  The Government had refused the involvement of foreign judges in delivering justice and accountability. 

Association for the Victims of the world said that there had been 147,000 victims of enforced disappearances in the conflict in Sri Lanka, which according to some accounted to genocide.   Although Chairpersons and Commissioners for the Office on Missing Persons had been appointed, they lacked credibility.  The Tamil people of Sri Lanka had to be granted their right to self-determination.  Delayed justice was denied justice.

L’Observatoire Mauritanien des droits de l'Homme et de la Démocratie said that war in Sri Lanka had been fought against the entire Tamil people in the north east.  The United Nations had produced three comprehensive reports, yet none of the reports called for accountability for crimes against humanity.  Demilitarization and other remaining promises had yet to be implemented.

Action of Human Movement (AHM) affirmed that the war in Sri Lanka had resulted in over 147,000 victims.  Still eight years after the war there had been no release of political prisoners and the Government had not followed on promises to establish transitional justice.  It was clear that the Sri Lankan Government wanted to wipe out all Tamils out of the country.

International Humanist and Ethical Union said that in the United States, eight states had enacted laws allowing people to infringe on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons and their families on the claim of upholding their own religious beliefs.  Cultural particularities and religious specificities were cited in the Council as a pretence for why human rights were not universal.

United Nations Watch said from 1949 the Communist Party of China had cracked down on people through class struggle and land reform during which millions of people had died.  The dictatorship controlled speech and cracked down on activists and Tibetans and drove out so-called low people.  This had caused resentment and had squeezed the space of freedom. 

Internationa-Lawyers.Org raised the issue of the freedom of the press which should be respected and which was an integral part of the right to freedom of expression.   Until now, no action had been taken to restore Inner City Press to its resident correspondent status at United Nations headquarters in New York.  Questions were raised as to whether this decision may be related to their continuous critical reporting on the United Nations and on matters that may raise concerns regarding the integrity of the organization.

Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said the hunt for illegal immigrants to “protect” Algeria’s security had resulted in forceful mass deportations.  Last December, more than 1,400 sub-Saharan migrants in Algiers had been rounded up in a highly publicized “clear-up” operation by Algerian authorities, and moved 1,900 km south to the desert city of Tamanrasset where they were later deported. 

Agence Internationale pour le Developpement Aide-Federation said the country host of Polisario still rejected international access to the Tindouf camps to examine the violations of human rights there.  The organization condemned the fact that the Algerian authorities had rejected the granting of visas, saying that the country’s methodical rejection for access to Tindouf camps was done in order to mask the killing, kidnapping and rape in these camps.

International Service for Human Rights stated that effective implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action required the involvement of civil society, including at the United Nations.  However, accreditation by the Economic and Social Council was in the hands of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, which was dominated by countries with poor human rights records.  The organization called on States with positive human rights records to stand as candidates.

Meezaan Centre for Human Rights reminded of the draft bill currently considered by the Israeli Parliament, which granted Jews privileges over others.  The new law would undercut the ability of the judiciary to undertake legal reviews.  The organization drew attention to the rise of racism and incitement against the Palestinians and Africans seeking to enter Israel.

New human rigths cameroon drew attention to the human rights violations against the people of Baluchistan in Pakistan.  Brutal violence against and killing of human rights defenders in Baluchistan had forced most non-governmental organizations to close their offices, and had created an environment of silence.  Impunity continued to rein in cases of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

Stichting International Centre for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service explained that it worked with indigenous peoples and facilitated their participation in the work of United Nations bodies on the issues of drug control and human rights.  The adoption of the draft resolution on countering drug problems during the current session offered the Human Rights Council an opportunity to continue to play a key role in drug policy discussions.  

Presse Embleme Campagne drew the attention of the Council to press freedom in Turkey, welcoming the release of German Turkish journalist Denis Yucel after one year behind bars.  However, the same day several other journalists had been sentenced to life imprisonment.  Around 160 media outlets had been closed since July 2016 and over 120 journalists were behind bars in Turkey.

Réseau International des Droits Humains (RIDH) 1, said that city councilwoman Marielle Franco and Anderson Gomes had been brutally killed on 14 March in Rio de Janerio.  Many who spoke the truth in Brazil were facing violence so Brazil was urged to ensure a prompt, impartial and independent investigation to ensure bringing those responsible to justice.

Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik noted that in Iran, none of the 35 regular elections which had been held had been free, transparent and fair.  In 1953 the late Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh had organized a referendum for the first time, however this had resulted in the 1953 coup.  Nonetheless, after 40 years of experiencing with the Islamic Republic, the people of Iran had to be able to have the possibility to decide on their political system.

Right of Reply

Cuba, speaking in a right of reply in response to the interfering and disrespectful statement by the United States, said that country tried to give lessons to other countries on democracy and claimed that it had a multiparty system.  History showed, however, that there were only two parties which served only the interests of the dominant class in the United States, which was a very small part of the country’s population.  Many Cubans in the United States supported the lifting of the blockade on Cuba but the United States Government had only tightened the screw. 

India, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statement made by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said it had made incorrect statements regarding Jammu and Kashmir, which were an integral part of India.  The Organization on Islamic Cooperation had no right to take a stance on India’s internal affairs.  India urged the Organization not to waste the time of the Council by meddling in the internal affairs of India.

Spain, speaking in a right of reply in response to the statement by Tourner la Page, expressed its deep disagreement with what the organization said.  Spain was very proud of being a democratic country for many years.  It expressed deep appreciation to the Catalan people.  The judicial branch in Spain was independent and Spanish judges carried out their daily work impartially, and scrupulously respected the Spanish Constitution and the statute of autonomy of all provinces, including that of Catalonia.  Any accusation against this system lacked all credibility.  Spain had made it clear that that the Human Rights Council was not the appropriate forum for biased claims of a political nature which did nothing to further the purposes of the Council.  The Council was not the place to refer to illegal processes. 

China, speaking in a right of reply, said the Human Rights Council had been used for the purpose of making a vicious attack against China and stated lies that China rejected.  China’s political system and path of development had been chosen by the people.  Under the leadership of the Communist Party, China had reached remarkable progress witnessed by the entire world, and this could not be rejected by anyone.  China urged relevant organizations not to use the Human Rights Council to carry out political attacks with ulterior motives.

Brazil, speaking in a right of reply, said it was appalled by the murder on 14 March of the city council member Marielle Franco.  This was not only a brutal act of violence but an attack against democracy and the rule of law.  The federal government would provide full support in the investigation of these killings, and the federal police was ready to contribute.  Ms. Marielle Franco had fought for human rights and had been an active and respected voice against violence in Rio de Janeiro.  

Pakistan, speaking in a right of reply in response to India, reminded the Human Rights Council that Kashmir was a long-standing unresolved dispute.  Kashmir was not part of India.  If it had nothing to hide, India had to allow access to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and to the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.  India should not fear freedom and it should allow the people of Kashmir to determine their fate.

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1Joint statement: Réseau International des Droits Humains (RIDH); Center for Reproductive Rights; Conectas Direitos Humanos; East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project; Friends of the Earth International; International Commission of Jurists; International Federation for Human Rights Leagues; International Lesbian and Gay Association; International Service for Human Rights and World Organisation Against Torture.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC18.055E